Student Ambassadors

Student Ambassadors

Hello everyone! We are proud to represent Teachers College as the Student Ambassadors in the Office of Admission. We would love to connect with you regarding our experiences in our academic programs, at TC, and in New York City. To reach us, please email If you would like to connect with one of us in particular about your program of interest, please include that Ambassador’s name in the subject line of your email. We are excited to hear from you!

Athena Abadilla
Higher and Postsecondary Education - Master of Arts

I’m a current M.A. student in the Higher and Postsecondary Education program (otherwise known as HPSE). I am originally from the island of Kauai, Hawai’i and have lived in New York since I started undergrad at Barnard College in 2016. My passions include capturing light through golden hour photography and candid portraiture, creating good playlists to vibe out to, and centering equity in all the work that I do! Initially after receiving my bachelor’s degree, I had imagined moving back closer to home — however, the personal and professional networks that I’ve found here in the city and within my cohort have given me the comfort needed to be confident in my decision to pursue a graduate degree at Teachers College. The HPSE program has also given me an amazing opportunity to balance theory and practice through my internship position as the Graduate Assistant of Inclusion and Belonging at The Cooper Union downtown.  I am consistently inspired by the care and resilience of our TC community, especially as we traverse new ways of teaching and learning in this virtual landscape. I am looking forward to sharing that warmth and excitement with you!

Maggie Barilka
Communication Sciences and Disorders - Master of Science

I am a first-year student in the Communication Sciences and Disorders program here at TC, on track to become a pediatric Speech Language Pathologist. Before attending Teachers College, I graduated from the University of Virginia (go hoos!!) with a Bachelor of Science in Education in Speech Communication Disorders and a minor in Drama. I am a native of Freehold, NJ, and am currently doing virtual school from my hometown. In my free time, I love to perform in musical theatre, and look forward to the day I can take the 1 train from Teachers College down to Midtown again to see a Broadway show (or five)! I chose Teachers College because of its amazing faculty and commitment to cultivating relationships with the community it serves. It has been my dream to attend Teachers College since I was a freshman in college, and I am so excited to share my love of TC and New York City with prospective students as a Student Ambassador!

Student Ambassador Taylor Garlow
Taylor Garlow
Nutrition Education - Master of Science

I’m in the Nutrition Education program. I’m from Syracuse, New York and completed my undergraduate study at Syracuse University. On top of being a Teachers College Student Ambassador, I also work as a Graduate Intern on Columbia’s main campus in the Engineering school! Originally, I was not planning to attend graduate school right after completing my undergraduate study. However, after speaking with the kind and welcoming staff and faculty here at Teachers College, I knew I had to be a part of this amazing institution. Everyone here wants you to succeed and is more than willing to do anything to help! The connections I've made here in my first few months have made the transition to the city seamless and I know will continue on even after my time at TC. When I’m not working or studying, I enjoy utilizing my student discounts and seeing all that this amazing city has to offer. You truly can never get bored here!

Student Ambassador Brooke Hayman
Brooke Hayman
Communication Sciences and Disorders - Master of Science

I am currently a student in the M.S. in Communication Sciences and Disorders program. I am originally from Wilmington, Delaware. Before coming to Teachers College, I attended Boston University and received my B.S. in Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences with a minor in Deaf Studies. I chose TC because of its continued commitment to its original mission to prepare students to help underserved and underrepresented populations. In addition, the welcoming and inclusive community that TC strives to maintain is exactly what I was looking for in the graduate institution that I chose to attend. As a new resident of New York City, I plan on taking advantage of all that there is to offer: Broadway shows, art galleries, restaurants, and more! Around campus you can find me watching YouTube, exploring new libraries/study spots, or hosting dinner parties with friends. I am thrilled to be part of the TC community as a Student Ambassador, and I am excited to meet you soon!

Jelani Spencer-Joe
Teaching of English to Speakers of Other Languages [TESOL] - Master of Arts

I’m pursuing an M.A. in TESOL, specifically focusing on adults. For my undergraduate degree, I studied communications at Susquehanna University and after that I taught abroad in Prague. When I returned from my travels, I came back knowing that I was passionate about teaching. As a native New Yorker, I wanted the best of both worlds by living and being a student here. Ultimately, I chose Teachers College because it felt right! I’m the first person in my family to attend graduate school and knew I would be in a community with people who would challenge, support, and help me thrive in this new environment. TC has been everything I thought it would be and more. I’m excited to meet and help prospective students figure out where they fit here.

Student Ambassador Allie Vaknin
Allie Vaknin
Psychological Counseling: Mental Health Counseling - Master of Education

I’m a first-year student pursuing a master’s in Mental Health Counseling. Born and raised in Miami, FL, I also attended the University of Central Florida in Orlando, where I pursued a dual degree in Human Communication and Sociology with a minor in Leadership Studies. Throughout my undergrad, I was heavily involved in opportunities across campus and within the community; from serving as a writing tutor, to participating in four internships (one of which was in Israel!), to completing two independent research projects and serving as a student ambassador for the president and the university as a whole. It was deeply fulfilling to serve my student body, and my community, through these roles, where I also learned a ton about myself. I came to Teachers College with that same enthusiasm! What drew me to this school and this program was its emphasis on multiculturalism, self-awareness, and of course, the plethora of opportunities to get involved on campus. In addition to working as a Student Ambassador, I’m also involved in a research lab and in study groups. My time at Teachers College has been, so far, a transformative experience, and I feel blessed to be a part of this community of changemakers.

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